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Delhi HC: False Accusations of Rape and Dowry Harassment by Wife Deemed Extreme Cruelty in Divorce Case

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Published on: 05 September 2023 at 13:21 IST

The Delhi High Court has recently emphasized that falsely accusing a husband’s family of rape and dowry harassment by the wife constitutes an extreme form of cruelty that cannot be condoned.

In a verdict upholding a family court’s decision to grant the husband a divorce, the court also highlighted that depriving one spouse of the other’s company is an act of cruelty.

A division bench consisting of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna asserted that baseless allegations of rape and dowry harassment by the wife against her husband’s family amount to mental cruelty, providing legal grounds for the husband to seek a divorce.

The court stated, “It cannot be underestimated that making serious allegations of not only dowry harassment but of rape against the family members of the respondent, which are found to be false, is an act of extreme cruelty for which there can be no condonation… Ultimately, if it is found that such allegations were unwarranted and without basis, the husband can allege that mental cruelty has been inflicted on him and claim a divorce on such grounds.”

The case involved a woman who appealed a family court’s decision from November 11, 2021, granting her husband a divorce based on mental cruelty.

The couple had married in accordance with Hindu customs on November 24, 2012, but the wife left the matrimonial home on February 19, 2014. She alleged that her husband never recognized her as his legally wedded wife and that she was sexually assaulted by her brother-in-law on February 17, 2014. She also claimed that her husband’s family taunted her for not bringing sufficient dowry.

However, the court found that the husband and his brother were exonerated of all charges related to Sections 498A (cruelty to women) and 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Additionally, the wife had written an apology letter admitting that the harassment claims were untrue.

The court observed that there was no evidence to support the claim that the marriage was unconsummated as alleged. Instead, it found sufficient evidence suggesting that the wife was reluctant to live with her husband.

The court stressed that depriving one spouse of the other’s company was a severe form of cruelty, emphasizing that cohabitation and a conjugal relationship are essential aspects of a marital bond.

Regarding cruelty, the court clarified that there was no fixed definition, and the effect of the conduct was more important than its nature. It emphasized the need to consider the physical and mental conditions of the parties, their social status, and the impact of one spouse’s behavior on the other. Malicious intent was not a prerequisite for cruelty, but it was significant where present.

In this particular case, where the couple had been living separately for nearly nine years, the court deemed it an extreme form of mental cruelty, justifying the dissolution of the marital relationship. Consequently, the court upheld the family court’s decision and dismissed the wife’s appeal.